Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Next Meeting: August 12, 2015

"The Traitor's Epiphany: Benedict Arnold in Virginia and His Quest for Vindication," Mark Lender

The meeting will be held in the Westhampton Room, Heilman Center (dining hall--building 34 on the campus map), University of Richmond, at 6:00 p.m. with dinner available for purchase in the dining hall beginning at 5:00 p.m. (We are still on our summer schedule.) It is not necessary that you purchase dinner in order to attend the meeting.

Note: This meeting was rescheduled from July. We will hold it in partnership with the University of Richmond's Osher Institute. Be sure to arrive early for the best seating!

University of Richmond campus map:

Meeting Notes: May 20, 2015

"Kidnapping General Charles Lee," Christian McBurney

Long before the creation of SEAL Team Six, Delta Force and the United Kingdom Special Forces, both the American and British armies already had their versions of special forces during the American Revolution.

One of the missions of these 18th Century special forces was to kidnap prime targets such as enemy generals. In December 1776 and July 1777, each side would succeed with daring overnight and early morning raids where they captured an enemy major general who was only half-dressed at the time of capture.

Christian M. McBurney described these two raids at the May 20, 2015 meeting of the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond. McBurney is the author of the book entitled Kidnapping The Enemy: The Special Operations to Capture Generals Charles Lee and Richard Prescott.

At the time of his capture Charles Lee was second-in-command of the Continental Army. In fact he arguably possessed a more impressive military career up until this point than the Continental Army’s commander, George Washington.

Lee spent his early years in England and later went to a boarding school in Switzerland. After completing his education Lee joined the British army as a lieutenant and later fought in the French & Indian War. He was wounded in the 1758 failed British attack on Fort Ticonderoga.

Lee rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and retired from the British army at half-pay upon the 1763 conclusion of the war. A few years later Lee saw military action in Poland, Russia and Turkey where he served as an aide-de-camp to the Polish king. After returning to England when troubles began to brew between Great Britain and its American colonies, Lee became sympathetic toward America’s concerns and moved to Virginia in 1773.

When war broke out at Lexington and Concord, Lee volunteered his services to the American cause and hoped Congress would name him the commander of the Continental Army. Instead, Congress named him the third-in-command behind George Washington and Artemas Ward. When Ward resigned his commission a few months later, Lee moved up to second-in-command.

Lee never held a great deal of respect for Washington, and lost confidence in him during the New York campaign when Fort Washington’s American garrison was forced to surrender to the British. Lee had advised Washington to pull the garrison from the fort but instead Washington listened to other senior officers who recommended strengthening the garrison.

After the British forced a surrender of Fort Washington and crossed the Hudson River to capture Fort Lee, Washington retreated with the main body of his army toward Pennsylvania while Lee stayed north of New York City in the White Plains area with a small detachment.

As Washington retreated across New Jersey, he asked and then ordered Lee to rejoin the main army with his detachment. According to McBurney, Lee “dithered and delayed” in his efforts to rejoin the main army.

On December 12, 1776 while most of his troops were camped three miles away, Lee spent the night in Basking Ridge, NJ at what was called White’s Tavern. When Loyalists in the area learned of Lee’s whereabouts, they promptly informed a reconnaissance patrol of British dragoons under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William Harcourt and Cornet Banastre Tarleton.

Under the cover of darkness the British dragoons rode quietly toward the tavern, gathering information along the way from captured American soldiers whom they threatened with death if they didn’t cooperate. On the morning of December 13, 1776 the British dragoons surrounded the tavern, captured Lee and quickly rode off with him.

At first William Howe and King George III wanted to hang Lee as a deserter since he had served in the British army. When word of this possibility reached the Americans, they threatened to retaliate by hanging British officers if the British hanged Lee. Finally when Howe learned that Lee had honorably resigned his British army commission, he agreed to treat Lee as a prisoner-of-war.

Americans were shocked by Lee’s capture, and some of them decided to do something about it. William Barton, a Rhode Island lieutenant colonel who had risen from the rank of private at the beginning of the war, devised a plan to capture Major General Richard Prescott, the commanding general of a 4,000-man British army in Newport, RI. The Americans had a particularly deep hatred for Prescott because he was known for treating American prisoners-of-war very cruelly. 

On the night of July 10, 1777 Prescott and his small band of men rowed across Narragansett Bay in five whaleboats to Newport. They carefully avoided British naval vessels and landed in an area where they followed a small path which led them to the farmhouse where Prescott was spending the night. Then they surrounded the house, seized the sleeping Prescott and his aide-de-camp and returned to their boats. Prescott and his men managed to dodge British artillery fire as they rowed back across Narragansett Bay.

“Of course the British felt humiliated over a small party capturing Prescott under the noses of 4,000 British troops and the British navy,” said McBurney.

When word reached Washington about Barton’s successful capture of Prescott, he immediately offered William Howe an exchange of Prescott for Lee. At first Howe refused but later changed his mind. For Prescott his capture and later exchange were a repeat of what happened earlier in the war. During America’s invasion of Canada, Prescott was captured by the Americans in November 1775 and was exchanged in September 1776 for General John Sullivan.

As for William Barton, he ended the war as an American hero and a prominent citizen of Rhode Island. When Rhode Island finally ratified the U.S. Constitution on May 29, 1790, Barton was given the honor of riding to New York City to give the official news to President Washington.

Later in life Barton moved to Vermont and became a real estate speculator. He lost money and at one point he was accused of selling the same land to two different purchasers. After nearly 15 years of litigation Barton was ordered to pay $600 in damages, which he refused. As a result he was thrown into prison, and turned down requests from his family and close friends to pay the $600 judgment on his behalf.

“His pride wouldn’t let him back down,” said McBurney.

Barton spent 13 years in prison until the Marquis de Lafayette heard about his imprisonment while the Marquis was passing through Rhode Island on his American tour. Lafayette paid the judgment, and Barton was released from jail at the age of 77. During his imprisonment three of his children had died.

On October 22, 1831 Barton died at the age of 83---one of America’s last surviving Revolutionary War heroes.

Christian McBurney grew up in Kingston, RI. He is a graduate of Brown University and New York University School of Law, and is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Nixon Peabody LLP where he focuses on business tax law. He is a member of the American Revolution Roundtable of Washington, D.C. and currently serves as its secretary.

In addition to his book on the kidnapping of Charles Lee and Richard Prescott, McBurney’s other books are as follows:

1. Spies in Revolutionary Rhode Island

2. The Rhode Island Campaign: The First French and American Operation In the Revolutionary War

3. Jailed For Preaching: The Autobiography of Cato Pearce, a Freed Slave from Washington County, Rhode Island

4.  A History of Kingston, R.I., 1700-1900: Heart of Rural South County

Prior to McBurney’s presentation before the American Revolution Roundtable of Richmond, the following business topics were discussed by the round table membership:

1. Various members announced several programs, meetings and events taking place in the near future across Virginia that relate to the American Revolution. Please see the ARRT-Richmond website for more details.

2. Mark Lender, Chairman of the ARRT-Richmond Book Award Committee, said the committee currently has nine candidates for the 2015 Book of the Year. Anyone wishing to nominate additional books may contact Chairman Mark.

3. Lindsey Morrison, Fellow for Battlefield Preservation at the Civil War Trust, gave a brief overview of Campaign 1776---a new preservation organization which is a division of the Civil War Trust. Campaign 1776 is dedicated to preserving America’s Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields, and is currently attempting to preserve a parcel that was part of the Battle of Princeton, NJ.

4. ARRT-Richmond President Bill Welsch said that five preservation candidates are under consideration as ARRT-Richmond’s 2015 Preservation Partner. In the near future President Bill will send an email with the list of 2015 preservation candidates to all ARRT-Richmond members who have paid 2015 dues. Each member will be ask to review the five candidates and to send back their email vote to President Bill.

5. President Bill Welsch reminded everyone that the July ARRT-Richmond meeting has been moved to August. 

--Bill Seward  

Updated: 2015 Book Award Nominations

Nine books have now been nominated for our 2015 book award. If there are any further nominations, please submit them to Mark Lender as soon as possible.

Eric D. Lehman, Homegrown Terror: Benedict Arnold and the Burning of New London (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2014).

Jack Kelly, Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America’s Independence (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Phillip Papas, Renegade Revolutionary: The Life of General Charles Lee (New York: New York University Press, 2014).

Michael C. Harris, Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777 (El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beatie, 2014).

Paul A. Boehlert, The Battle of Oriskany and General Nicholas Herkimer (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2014).

Michael M. Greenburg, The Court-Martial of Paul Revere: A Son of Liberty and America’s Forgotten Military Disaster (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2014).

Greg Eanes, Tarleton’s Southside Raid and Peter Francisco’s Famous Fight (Crew, VA: Eanes  Group, 2014).

Lorri Glover, Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014).

Christian M. McBurney, Kidnapping the Enemy: The Special Operations to Capture Generals Charles Lee and Richard Prescott (Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, 2013).

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Green Spring and Yorktown Tour, May 28, 2015

There’s still time to register for the May 28 Green Spring and Yorktown tour sponsored by our corporate partner America’s History, LLC. Details are here  This tour is being offered in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Company of Military Historians, to be held in Richmond. You need not be a member nor attend the conference to join the tour. Ed Lengel, Bruce Venter, and Bill Welsch will be your guides.

"God Save the People! From the Stamp Act to Bunker Hill," February 27 - September 4, 2015

This exhibit at the Massachusetts Historical Society aims to tell the story of the coming of the American Revolution in Boston, following the evolution of colonial thought and political action through the letters and diaries of men and women caught up in the conflict, together with political cartoons, newspapers, maps, artifacts, and portraits.

Of interest to us, they are making available several online displays. The links to these are towards the bottom of the following link:

"Perspectives on the Boston Massacre": July 7-9, 2015

For anyone near Boston during the above dates, the Massachusetts Historical Society is presenting a workshop on the Boston Massacre. Using letters, depositions, newspapers, and engravings, they will explore how participants, onlookers, residents, authorities, and outsiders made meaning of the “massacre” and its aftermath. Participants will have an opportunity to view original documents and artifacts from MHS collections, and take a walking tour of downtown Boston and the Old State House Museum.

For more information:

Friday, May 8, 2015

Call for Volunteers for Hermione Visit

Jeff Lambert, WYARRT board member, recently attended the Hermione organizational meeting. They are in need of about 50 volunteers for that weekend to help in various capacities. Organizers stated that volunteers would get a tour of the ship. 

If you are interested in this opportunity to volunteer and to be a part of history, contact them through the web site (link below). Go to the "About" tab and click on volunteer. There are all day and half day shift slots available. If you do volunteer, please let the WYARRT know about your participation. 

Williamsburg Yorktown American Revolution Round Table

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

2015 Preservation Fund Reminder

Just a reminder that the nominations for our 2015 preservation fund recipient will be reviewed and voted on by paid members at our May 20 meeting. Please make sure that Bill Welsch has all nominations prior to the meeting,

ARRT-Richmond's 2015 Book Award Nominations

The following books have been nominated for our 2015 book award. If there are any further nominations, please submit them to Mark Lender as soon as possible.

Eric D. Lehman, Homegrown Terror: Benedict Arnold and the Burning of New London (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2014).

Jack Kelly, Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America’s Independence (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Phillip Papas, Renegade Revolutionary: The Life of General Charles Lee (New York: New York University Press, 2014).

Michael C. Harris, Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777 (El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beatie, 2014).

Paul A. Boehlert, The Battle of Oriskany and General Nicholas Herkimer (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2014).

Michael M. Greenburg, The Court-Martial of Paul Revere: A Son of Liberty and America’s Forgotten Military Disaster (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2014).

Greg Eanes, Tarleton’s Southside Raid and Peter Francisco’s Famous Fight (Crew, VA: Eanes  Group, 2014).

Lorri Glover, Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014).

Bruce Venter's Book Now Available

Our own Bruce Venter’s book, The Battle of Hubberton, is now available and is highly recommended. Bruce will be speaking on this topic at our September meeting.

Two New Historic Markers Unveiled

Two historic highway markers commemorating French activities in the Historic Triangle during and after the Revolutionary War have been unveiled at their new homes along Jamestown Road.

Yorktown Victory Center Reaches Midpoint Milestone

YORKTOWN, Va., March 12, 2015 – With the completion of an 80,000-square-foot building – a distinctive new Yorktown landmark – the Yorktown Victory Center has reached a midpoint milestone in its transformation into the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

The Yorktown Victory Center and the museum replacement project are managed by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, a Virginia state agency that also operates Jamestown Settlement history museum.

Museum operations transitioned from the existing facility to the new building this week.  Visitors are welcomed in an expansive two-story entrance lobby, with access to a museum gift shop and a cafĂ©.  Before entering the ticketed area, visitors can watch a new Yorktown Victory Center orientation video and find information about other area attractions.

In the 170-seat museum theater, until the premiere of new introductory film in 2016, three films will be shown on a rotating basis, each prefaced by a 60-second preview of the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.  “The Road to Yorktown,” which debuted with the opening of the Yorktown Victory Center in 1976 during the national Bicentennial, and “A Time of Revolution,” shown daily since 1995, focus on the 1781 Siege of Yorktown and events that led up to it, with emphasis on the perspectives and personal stories of those involved.  “Liberty’s Call,” a new film produced by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s video production team to be added to the rotation this spring, combines period images with present-day interviews to explore the American ideal of liberty from its inception to the establishment of a national government, and across time to today.

Next to the theater is a 5,000 square-foot space for future special exhibitions.  A timeline corridor leading to the museum’s outdoor living-history areas borders a 22,000 square-foot space where construction of permanent gallery exhibits, planned to open by late 2016, is underway.  The corridor provides a visual journey from the 13 British colonies in the 1750s to westward expansion of the new United States in the 1790s.  A short video at the end of the corridor introduces visitors to the museum’s outdoor re-created Continental Army encampment and Revolution-era farm. 

While work continues on the new galleries, special visitor participatory experiences will be offered in the corridor and nearby classrooms and on an outdoor event lawn.  Periodic topics include military tactics, nationalities represented at the Siege of Yorktown, espionage, choosing sides during the Revolution, enlistment in the Continental Army, and military medicine.

A section of the new museum building serves as a venue for learning experiences for student groups as well as the general public.  A separate entrance to the education center provides direct access to group check-in and five classrooms that support segments of curriculum-based structured educational programming and other museum special programs. 

The building was designed by Westlake Reed Leskosky of Cleveland, Ohio, and built by W.M. Jordan Company, Inc., of Newport News.  W.M. Jordan also is construction manager for new parking areas and removal of pre-existing structures.  In addition to public spaces, the new building houses support functions – a meeting and special event space with a panoramic view of the York River, staff offices, library, historical clothing workshop, exhibit preparation and collection storage, and building and grounds maintenance.  The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation's central support complex, located midway between Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center, continues to provide a range of support services for both museums. 

The 1976 museum building will be demolished this spring after the transition to the new building is complete, making way for construction of new outdoor interpretive areas and amenities.  A living-history experience in the encampment and farm, currently in a temporary location, will remain available to museum visitors throughout the transition.

Construction of the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown began in mid-2012, and the entire project is planned for completion by late 2016, when the new name will replace “Yorktown Victory Center.”  Major components of the project total approximately $50 million.  Planning, site renovations, and building and exhibit construction are funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Private donations, coordinated by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Inc., are supporting elements of gallery and outdoor exhibits and educational resources.

The Yorktown Victory Center is located at Route 1020 and the Colonial Parkway (200 Water Street) and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.  For more information, visit

May 20, 2015 Meeting Time Change

Due to the dining hall's summer schedule, our May 20, 2015 meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. with dinner available from 5:00-6:00 p.m. Please make plans to join us!